MACKINAW MEMORIES: Comfort in the Storm
It was the Fall turkey hunt in Wisconsin. November had come upon us all at once – the oaks were speckled with frost and the skies over the North Woods were threatening an Autumn hale flash. The truck was throaty as we navigated the back roads, dusk coming on. Two sons, two daughters and a golden labrador in the bucket seats. My husband, Ed, was at the wheel. I could see his tension through the dark. His hide gloves clutching the stickshift, the collar of his slate Mackinaw pulled high against the chill. I knew what the double breastpockets held – hank of twine, matches, the pearl-handled penknife from his World War II veteran father. That sector of woods is waterfall country. Drops and turns in the rivers lead to crashing walls of whitewater. I was thinking this, just as an icy curtain of mist began to thrash our windows. The kids fell silent. Even Bragg, our lab, had sobered. I knew what Ed was considering. I smiled. “They can make it through the night if we have to.” At that moment the hood growled and I clenched Ed’s arm as he wrangled the wheel to ease us onto the dark road shoulder. Mae, our youngest, had cried out fearfully in the backseat. “We’re alright,” Ed reassured. I grabbed the flashlight as Ed popped the hood. “It’s the serpentine,” I said, taking one look at the mangled belt. The night was in turmoil. Winds and sharp mist beat against our faces and the pine boughs over our heads whipped and snapped. Ed shook his head. “I can’t fix this. Not here.” The road was so dark, the storm so foreboding. But we had blankets, water, and kids with grit. I said so. Ed smiled at my bravado. “I’ll take Bragg and Jike,” he said. “I need you to stay here with the others and a signal light.” We had a terse conference with the kids. Mae whimpered. It was then Ed knelt, and pulled off his Cruiser. He draped it around her shoulders before turning. No one spoke. We waited. We clung to hope. Then we saw a light approaching. Help had returned.